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Lost art of proper relaxation

Discussion in 'Skills and Smarts' started by St. Louis, Apr 12, 2015.

  1. I think of the writing I do here more as conversation than "writing."

    One thing I do do that might be counted as a hobby is teaching kids to sew. I've made several projects with one of the kids from work, and she's progressed from a complete novice to a reasonably skillled seamstress in about two years' time. Another of the kids wants to make her own prom dress this year, and I've signed her up for the appropriate lessons. They provide the young eyesight, and I tell them not to stick their fingers in the path of the needle.
  2. First, my goal is to avoid this being about politics - seriously, but I've been thinking about our changing economy and all the unemployed or employed-at-jobs-that-don't-need-a-college-degree college-educated young men and women and how we also talk about plumbers, electricians and other tradesman being in great demand.

    The mismatch, in part and IMHO, is because the default and well-intended mindset for many is that "to help my child in this world, he/she should get a college degree." But some subset would probably be better off learning a specific trade / skill / vocation (maybe incorporated with some business management skills as the ones I've seen that "do well" know how to manage their careers / business and are not just good at their particular skill).

    One skill that seems overlooked, but at least in the two cities I've lived in is in great demand, is tailoring. As with almost anything, the skill is key to real success as there are a lot of hack tailors, but the good ones (again in my unscientific experience) do very well. What also prompted this thought is a show I've been watching "The Time Between" which (for purposes here) is about a woman seamstress who does well in the '30s in Spain as a high-end dressmaker because, well, the rich alway have money and like to dress well.

    I wonder if our economy isn't missing an opportunity as we are probably sending some kids to college who would do better / enjoy more / be natural at a trade or skill versus going the college path. Wow, that was a lot, but your sewing hobby and tutelage brought it together in my mind.
  3. I've always said if I had kids of my own I'd apprentice them to an electrician or a plumber. There'll never be a shortage of philosophy majors, but try and get someone to fix your toilet on a Sunday.

    My first sewing student was 27 years old when she started, and she couldn't sew a button on her coat. That just shouldn't be.
    vitanola likes this.
  4. The thing is - the hard thing is - knowing what is the right path for the particular kid. Your kid might be a born plumber or a born Noble Prize winner in philosophy. Sometimes it really is easy to tell early, but more often, it is not.

    Right now, at a societal default level we push many to college and seem to have almost dropped vocational training. At a macro level that needs to be changed (and I've recently read about some non-college programing courses that are almost creating programing vocation paths - sounds spot on), but even if we get that right from a top-down view, the challenge for each parent and kid is to find the right path for them.

    Life is definitely hard.
    vitanola likes this.

  5. Do you really believe that a parent can choose a career path for their kid? Kids being kids, that's not a great game plan in the real world.

    I've found that when all's said & done, they're going to do as they wish- carrots and sticks that you provide to the contrary. You can encourage, cajole, even cut off educational funds if you wish... but in the end that usually backfires. And that isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes an 18 year old kid can have better insight than their parent.
  6. Ernest P Shackleton

    Ernest P Shackleton Practically Family

    To me, a hobby isn't just something you enjoy, but it also acts as a positive distraction from all else (escapism), including the self. Something that is engaging to the point it naturally puts you in a zone of concentration and focus. Something that clears the mind of everything but it. I guess you could consider it meditative in that regard. The two sticky terms there are "positive" and "from all else". Some hobbies, like politics, might not necessarily be entirely positive. To each their own.
  7. Some of the most well adjusted individuals that I know have both a college degree AND a trade. One friend is a carpenter with a baccalaureate. Another has a degree in musicology who also repairs stringed instruments: one of his many manual skills. My late uncle had a degree in philosophy and worked in the building trades for 5 decades.

    Who says that going to college precludes getting into a trade? We tend to always view this as an either/ or proposition... but perhaps it's time to realize that the real key to evolution and survival is adaptability.
    Seb Lucas likes this.
  8. Ernest P Shackleton

    Ernest P Shackleton Practically Family

    This is the consequence of making teaching and high school education about tests and results rather than about providing a broad tasting experience. Cut funding for the arts. Cut funding for shop. Cut funding for civics. What it really does is whittle down the types of experiences these kids have, so while some might want to be computer coders or work on Wall St, most won't. All the ones that fall outside of those couple of things never experience other possibilities. How would they know they enjoy plumbing, sculpture, machining, woodworking, glass, music, or whatever if they've never done it? It's a real disservice to our children to not expose them to as many things as possible when they are young. Our schools used to act as experiential education as well. I worked with leather, made something out of wood, machined a little trinket, studied crops, learned to sew and cook, and learned about our government in the 7th and 8th grades. My high school used to buy property and build an entire home in a school year to teach construction skills. I grew up in one of those school-built homes. It's one of the fantastic things about a liberal arts education. Electives. It's a lot easier to find and pick a passion if you have 100 experiences vs 3 or 4 experiences.

    *yet we have absolutely no problem finding the money and commitment for sports. And before you think I'm a nerd or try to pigeonhole me, I'm a longtime idiot jock.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2017
  9. I agree with enthusiasm as I, too, know such people and, yes, many are well-adjusted, happy, etc., but there is a cost factor involved.

    Interestingly, I know several lawyers who work in finance but not in any legal capacity and they are some of the happiest people I know.

    But again, while individually that might work, it's hard to find the funds for both college and vocational / skill training as structured today. Which in why in my post I suggested incorporating in, perhaps in some hybrid model, both "college" education and vocational education as there are clear benefits to be had from both.
  10. One of the most interesting things I got to do in high school was learn hot metal printing. I got to work a linotype, compose pages, and operate a press -- not only was I the co-editor of the school paper I got to actually *manufacture* that paper with my own hands. The satisfaction that came from that was immense -- it really brought home to me that "idea" work and physical work are not mutually exclusive, and that one cannot exist without the other. If I had to pick out one lesson I got from my education that's the most important, that would undoubtedly be the one.

    Even though the skills I learned were obsolete by the time I graduated, I still greatly value the experience, and I still find myself looking at books with a printer's eye as much a reader's one.
  11. Ernest P Shackleton

    Ernest P Shackleton Practically Family

    Well, that's the other fvcking problem. Why bother if you aren't going to use it? As if you can't learn something from everything. As if you can't "use" something from everything. As if there is nothing to gain from learning to speak Spanish if you don't go out and speak Spanish. Why bother to learn how to do anything if you aren't going to use it (and usually, if you aren't going to use it to make money specifically)? The idea that "useless" things can function to train the mind, to alter perspective (like in your example), to enrich life...seems to be beyond comprehension for a lot of folk. And we wonder why so many people in our country are angry, frustrated, and miserable. Shortsighted, ill-conceived pragmatism is as much to blame for the widespread negative outlook as anything.
    LizzieMaine likes this.
  12. Work hard, relax hard.

  13. Job dissatisfaction has always been high among lawyers. "I'd walk away from it in a heartbeat to own and run a hot dog stand!" is almost a cliché', and when you think about it, it makes sense. People often seek attorneys to save themselves from the consequences of their own stupid actions, and they'll then ignore sound advice (because they always know better than the lawyer, of course) and bury themselves even deeper. It can get very depressing, but it's those rare occasions when you're able to really make someone's life better that make it all worth it.

    One of the supervisors from my old office has vowed to work at Disney World when she retires from the law. "After decades of working at one of the saddest places on earth (largest unified criminal court system in the world) , I'm ready to be in the happiest place in the world." Not my cup of tea, but I appreciate the sentiment.
  14. Haversack

    Haversack Practically Family

    Some places still offer vocational ed in high school. Back in the '90s I was costing out the design for a new high school in central Oregon. It was interesting to note that it had an entire ag studies wing which included greenhouses, stable and paddock, and machine shop with tractor bays.
    Bugguy likes this.
  15. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

    I live in Northern Virginia just outside Washington, D.C., and high schools here definitely offer vocational training. Not only that but their adult ed also offers more advance classroom courses in things like building codes and things like that. I don't think any of them have paddocks and stables, though. But they can rebuild cars, build houses and things like that. There are other issues but the schools are doing a good job in that direction.

    What is missing, I think, is the close cooperation with potential employers and unions that would benefit job seekers with skills. But it doesn't seem like the business environment is particularly friendly to anything regarding employees and unions. So there's just not going to be any middle-class skilled labor anymore. But that's just my impression and my opinion.

    It is possible, however, that public schools push academic more than necessary. One of the Magliozzi brothers (of Click and Clack on Car Talk) pointed out that the only reason was to take algebra was so you could take even more algebra. But I am beginning to think there is nothing about (free) public education that isn't controversial in some quarter. But I hate to imagine the alternative, which is none. No amount of schooling will make you smarter, though, but no schooling at all won't do anything for you.

    There is something about attending college, though. It tends to seperate you from those who haven't been to college but I don't mean that in either a good or bad way. Your perceptions will have been altered, you horizons broadened, hopefully, your tastes broadened, if not exactly elevated and you become a different person to a greater or lesser degree, but by no means necessarily better and it won't even make you more employable, although we would hope so. You don't even begin to really learn things until you leave college anyway. Personally, I think the one thing that does more for your success than anything else is just showing up for work on time everyday.
  16. Bugguy

    Bugguy One of the Regulars

    I taught in an EVGC (Educational-Vocational Guidance Center) in Chicago in the late 60's with "socially disadvantaged" kids from Cabrini-Green. They learned a skill... they printed and laminated the best forged Chicago Board of Education parking cards I'd ever seen - even consecutively numbered them (a math cross-over). I never got a parking ticket using it in the City (still have it somewhere).

    Closer to home, my 30-something went away to college to study glass blowing. It was too technical (she hated breaking her failures) so she switched to textiles and is now an accomplished weaver. It's a trade and doesn't require fuel or electricity or pollute the environment - if you don't count sheep gas. And after the "big one" she has a skill she can barter with.

    I should'a been a shoemaker.
  17. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

    It seems like even fifty years ago, tailors and seamstresses were from overseas, usually Greece or Italy, it seems. So maybe nobody ever wanted to do those things. And even a hundred years ago in a few books, the shoemaker or cobbler was invariably Italian. That was even true in my hometown in West Virginia where there were a surprising number of Italians, although in truth, some may have been from Sicily.

    In the small company I work for, there is both a graphics shop and a cabinetmaking shop, currently expanding to include metalworking, too. Although, in theory, those are manual labor kinds of jobs, there is a high degree of intelligence required since much shop equipment is computer-controlled these days. Among the graphic equipment are printers that can print wide (36") prints. The high school where our kids went had such printers, too. I can only imagine the equipment they have down at the vo-tech center that's used for auto diagnostics. So don't sell the school system short.
  18. Bjorn240

    Bjorn240 One of the Regulars

    I went bass fishing for about 40 minutes this morning before work. I was wearing wool pants, a shirt, a wool tie, a cardigan, a tweed jacket, and a Barbour jacket on top. I did swap work shoes for Russell Moc boots, but I don't see why you couldn't comfortably fish in what these gentlemen are wearing, especially off a boat where you could go below, sit in the shade, and pour a drink. I do question whether the gent in the club collar caught the tarpon using that tackle, however.
  19. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

    That's how Herbert Hoover dressed to go fishing. We visited his "camp" up in the Shenandoah several years ago where he liked to go to get away from Washington. It's my idea of a nice camp. But Hemingway never dressed like that to go fishing but his friend Gary Cooper did.
  20. I did not take into account the time of
    the year.
    Perhaps the photographs on the wall
    that I saw hanging in the restaurant were all taken in the Fall.
    I doubt anyone including native born,
    would last 40 minutes at the Gulf Coast
    where the average temperature is a humid 100+ degrees in the shade in
    the Summer wearing wool.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2017

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